Wednesday, 2 November 2016

The fight for our plots.

Today we had the worst news in 4 years for any allotment holder. The fight to save Farm Terrace allotments in Watford is over and the site is to be lost to diggers and concrete, a new hospital, or car park or whatever. Watford Council have put building above food and nature, and in all honesty were never going to stop until they won. Today is that hideous day.
Sara Jane Trebar who ran the campaign so valiantly for all of those 4 years, beginning with that now famed tweet that just said 'help' has described the feeling as grief and I wrote a bit about how losing our site, albeit only a part of it, made me feel here, and indeed grief it is. Grief for hope, as all the energy plowed into the campaign appears to disappear down a black hole and is gone. All the time spent campaigning, emailing and building support seems like time lost. Grief in its rawest form as we see our precious land, where our children played and friendships were made, lost. Gone forever.
Sara Jane at Bowood in 2015 where we held an allotment stand, and spoke about sites that are now, all 3, either changed forever or gone. 
But it isn't wasted time and here's why.
There's a land grab going on. Hundreds of years ago the Enclosures Act removed rights to land of normal people who needed that land not for profit, but for life, and it's happening again right in front of our eyes. Allotment land can only be decommissioned if there are "exceptional circumstances" and if a car park or a road, all of which could go elsewhere, are deemed exceptional circumstances then this makes a mockery of the phrase in the first place. In fact the judge has said today that exceptional circumstances are whatever they need to be, in order to pass the decommissioning through and so the whole thing makes a mockery of itself.
As these grabs continue, those common lands, allotments, parks, heaths and moors, are being lost. Lost due to austerity and lack of funds, regardless of the facts that we know about these spaces bring vital for well being. Parks are having to make their own way in the world, often by bringing in expensive attractions that mean they are no longer totally accessible to all, and our allotment sites are all threatened as land for housing, industry and roads is prioritised over the future well being of the common man.
And in the meantime we build houses no one can afford, putting profit before people again and again. We put our monies into corporate hands and trust profit making companies to make decisions about our lives. Decisions that are inevitably made to ensure shareholders get their bonuses. 
By the common man I mean all of  us who feel we have no power to make change. 
But we all have that power, albeit that it doesn't feel like it much of the time. Activism means just that-being active and communities countrywide need gentle activism to demand change. If we all stand up to the corporate land grab eventually we will be heard. And then eventually we will be listened to. 
So if you know of a site that's under threat, become their friend. Take on a plot. Write to your councillors and MPs. Take part in peaceful protest and take your children along, to show them they have a voice. And why? Because it's the power of tiny actions and a want for a kinder future that will gather momentum and eventually make the change we all want to see.
And in the meantime I salute Sara Jane and all those who have and are fighting for their land, their beliefs and for our rights. Get involved and we'll salute you too.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, you are so right on all of this. Austerity is a euphemism for taking money and resources away from The Common Man in order to line the pockets of a small number of greedy autocrats. Society has a pressing need to restore some philanthropy, and a more appropriate distribution of funds and resources. No immediate prospect of that under the present Government though!